Let’s face it, the bulk of a book is made up of paper (pun intended) — and that means paper choice is a key decision for book publishers and printers. When book weight and cost are the driving concerns, publishers often will opt for a lighter-weight paper. But there are other concerns with lightweight papers, including opacity and finding a printer that can handle the process of printing on very lightweight paper.
About lightweight papers
Paper comes in many qualities, from coated art papers to newsprint. The end product will determine the publisher’s paper choice. Two of the major considerations are book thickness and price, and these concerns are related. The weight of the paper contributes to the thickness and weight of the finished book — and the heavier the book, the higher the shipping costs.
One of the most challenging aspects of using lightweight papers is opacity. Opacity is the amount of transparency of the paper. High opacity papers are less transparent, meaning you cannot see through the paper. Lightweight papers by nature are less opaque, which means the print is more likely to show through to the other side of the page. When there is print on both sides of the page, as in a novel or biography, opacity is not a big problem. But in a highly illustrated book — such as a travel or art book, where images may appear anywhere on the page — high opacity is essential. Groundwood lightweight paper typically has higher opacity than other stocks. The finish of the paper also contributes to opacity, with coated papers having a higher opacity.
Uses of lightweight paper
Because lightweight papers have a higher number of pages per inch (ppi), they are an ideal choice for books with high page counts. This includes dictionaries, encyclopedias, directories, hymnals, and bibles. Lightweight papers are also useful for combining a series into a single book. That means you will save money by printing only one book instead of multiple volumes.
Challenges of printing on lightweight paper
Lightweight papers are more difficult to work with because they don’t have the tensile strength of heavier papers. Lightweight papers are also easily damaged, and great care must be taken at each stage of the printing process. There are only a handful of printers in the U.S. that have the capability to print on very lightweight papers.
When CJK Group (Sheridan’s parent company) acquired the assets of Dickinson Press (which now operates as Sheridan Grand Rapids because it is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan) in late 2018, it also acquired more than 130 years of experience printing on lightweight paper. In fact, Sheridan Grand Rapids was the first printer in the U.S. to produce bibles with lightweight paper on a heatset web press. Their experience allows them to select lightweight stocks that minimize show-through, are durable, and ensure that your printed piece will be around for years to come.
If your needs include printing on lightweight paper, you’ll want to partner with a company that has the knowledge, expertise, and equipment to overcome the challenges of this type of paper, including its more delicate nature and the issues of opacity — someone like Sheridan.